‘Laxity driving cholera spread’ 

Source: ‘Laxity driving cholera spread’ –Newsday Zimbabwe

THE increasing cholera cases and fatalities are a result of a combination of poor water and sanitation services and general laxity during the festive season among other reasons, health experts have said.

To date, suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in 56 districts in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.

A cumulative total of 14 885 suspected cholera cases, 67 laboratory confirmed deaths, 266 suspected cholera deaths and 1 676 laboratory confirmed cases had been reported by January 2 this year.

The outbreak has now spread to more than the 17 traditional cholera hotspot districts of Buhera, Chegutu, Chikomba, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Chitungwiza, Chiredzi, Harare, Gokwe North, Marondera, Mazowe, Shamva, Mutare, Murehwa, Mwenezi, Seke and Wedza.

Speaking to NewsDay yesterday, Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said cholera cases were bound to rise owing to laxity during the festive season whereby cholera preventive measures were not followed.

“It is expected because of reckless behaviour during the holiday season whereby we saw people crowded, not observing prevention measures,” Marisa said.

“There were no  proper sanitation facilities at most public gatherings. The rains themselves worsened the situation as they polluted water bodies. There is no improvement in water infrastructure by relevant authorities as well as water shortages, all contributing to an increased cholera burden.”

Marisa also lamented the poor cholera case management, especially at government institutions.

“We have very poor case management of cholera which is caused by understaffing, poor remuneration, demotivated staff at cholera control units among other things. The government should decentralise cholera treatment to avoid a delay in commencement of treatment whereby most of the deaths are a result of referrals,” he said.

Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said a large number of urban and rural households have limited access to safe water and safe sanitation in Zimbabwe.

“Interruption of water supplies, overcrowding of sanitation facilities and difficulties with urban waterborne sanitation during periods of water cuts means that urban households are vulnerable to unhealthy environments,” Rusike said.

“Harare has remained the epicentre of the cholera outbreak largely because of a range of problems including aging and unrepaired sewer systems, waste put in sewers due to poor waste collection, illegal waste dumps, overflowing septic tanks and frequent water and power cuts,” he said.

“Long term measures for water availability and treatment, and for sanitation, rubbish collection and hygiene activities should be highly prioritised.

Meanwhile, according to a situation report for Chitungwiza town for January 2, 2024, 54,5% of cases in the dormitory town have been reported in St Mary’s, 17,9% in Zengeza, 6% in Nyatsime, 8,5% in Seke North, while 5,4% in Seke South.

 “Twenty deaths have been reported to date. St Mary’s (12), Nyatsime (1), Seke North (3), Seke South (3), Outside Chitungwiza (1). No new suspected cholera deaths were reported today (January 2nd),” the report reads.

Chitungwiza council has since established a cholera treatment centre at St Mary’s Family Health Centre clinic and a fully-fledged team is assisting on all issues concerning cholera.